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Top of the class or in the dunce’s corner?

23 July, 2012

Author: Warren Town


As the MPs go away on their holidays or stay at home to take prime seats at the Olympics, we contemplate what progress there has been now that we are some two years into the life of the coalition.

It would be nice to look back and list the number of successes, but that would be a very short and worthless list.

I have lost count of the ‘u turns’, the gaffs, poor judgements and downright arrogance from this Government; but to be fair this is only matched by the abject failure of the opposition to capitalise on the coalition’s poor performance.

But as the gentleman’s agreement, that was designed to underpin the coalition’s future runs out of steam, you have to ask ‘what benefit have the Liberals gained from this deal?’

They have not achieved electoral reform or reform of the House of Lords and spent most of their time in the shadow of the Conservatives, often expressing discontent or ire.

So where will we go in the autumn when the MPs return fresh faced and eager?

One area where we expected an announcement before the recess was on the question of regional/local pay for the NHS in England and potentially for the UK. (Although Scotland and Wales have already made their views clear and see the fragmentation of national pay as nonsense.) We are now told that any announcement is unlikely until the autumn. Will it be more bad news or are we to see another ‘u turn’ from an already struggling coalition?

It is the Conservatives who are driving this agenda and it is the Liberals who are lukewarm over the prospect of separate pay rates across the UK.

Whatever the reason for the delay with this crucial announcement, it is clear that the coalition has run out of steam and only time will tell if the parties can renew their vows. (I discount the pathetic attempt by Cameron and Clegg to re-establish their bond at a train works in July as even the press were not interested and comedians have had a heyday with the similarities between the coalition and the woes of the rail network!)

If they cannot get the coalition back on track, then we are left with major reform of the NHS and the benefits system, rudderless and lacking support.

It is not as if some of us have not been here before. Under the Thatcher and Major administrations, government policy for the public sector was created piecemeal, lacked consistency and was implemented when it was possible, not when it was necessary.

This autumn has all the hallmarks of history repeating itself.

With NHS budgets overstretched and employers expecting employees to pay for deficits out of their own pockets or make a few quid on the side undertaking non clinical work, there is clear evidence that it will be the bottom line that will decide what the patient can have and not service need.

Because we have seen this before and because we survived the last fiasco that was public sector policy under the Tories and then refined under Labour, there is every reason to be optimistic that the SoR will continue to grow and meet the challenges that this coalition has thrown at us.

It would be nice to say that we could rely on Labour in opposition to be there alongside us but the problem is that they seem incapable of holding a logical thought for longer than a ‘nanosecond!’

And so is it an ‘A’ or an ‘E’ for the political parties for the end of term report? Judge that for yourself.

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